Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Emile Signol's Dagobert I and Clovis II

(I cannot stop mentally appending "of that name" after every "so and so the nth".)

I came across these lovely paintings last night, around one AM, when I should have been well asleep:

Emile Signol (1804-1892) - Dagobert Ier roi d'Austrasie de Neustrie et de Bourgogne (mort en 638)

Dagobert I, king of Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, AD 603-639, painted by Emile Signol in 1843.

Emile Signol (1804-1892) - Clovis II, roi d'Austrasie, de Neustrie et de Bourgogne, mort en 656

Clovis II, king of Austrasia, Neustria and Burgundy, AD 637 – 627, painted by Emile Signol in 1843.

Obviously these paintings probably look nothing like the folks they ostensibly depict, given the paucity of quality Dark Age portraits Signol had to work from (that is, none). These folks were Frankish kings, Merovingians, not particularly important ones, footnotes in French history.

It is not the history I wish to discuss, but the art. These paintings reminded me strongly of the Saints Cards I used to collect. I am in love with the deep shadows of Clovis's eyes; his downcast, almost sad expression; his slight and delicate features. Clovis died young, a child for most of his reign, and Signol has captured here the essence of fragile youth.

The portraits owe much, it seems to me, to traditional depictions of Jesus, eg,

Christ pantocrator daphne1090-1100

(11th century mosaic from the Church of Daphne near Athens.)

Though perhaps it is just the beards. I see in it either the force of habit, continuing to depict divinity even when occupied with other subjects, or a purposeful attempt at implying that these obscure kings possessed some divinity or connection to the divine, through which their rule was blessed or French history itself was blessed.

They are not the most dynamic portraits, but their quiet simplicity is pleasant enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment